9th July 2012 · 0 Comments
It may or may not bring you comfort to learn that there are some things in life you can always count on to stay the same. Take Louisiana racism, for example.
We’ve always known that there were different standards for Blacks. Our parents and grandparents warned us that you had to be twice as good as a white person to be considered almost their equal. You had to run two miles to win a one-mile race…and then they might accuse you of cheating…if you used both legs.
This rule has been in place in education, politics and business, and, of course, a state court system which wears its anti-Black bias like a neon flag. The statistics regarding incarceration alone show the court system’s absolute aversion to racial justice.
Add to this putrid pot a political climate marked by an increasingly hostile legislature, a governor committed to reversing Black progress (as part of a White House bid) and a racially provocative conservative media, you have a setting that encourages people in power to violate integrity and further befoul the system they are sworn to uphold.
So it’s actually more disappointing than surprising that a retiring white Chief Justice would conspire to derail the ascension of her rightful successor of color. This could almost be considered predictable in a morbid, cynical sort of way.
As a parting shot that will likely define her legacy as a racist icon, Catherine D. “Kitty” Kimball, the retiring Chief Justice, has called for a hearing to determine who will succeed her. She has also issued an order recusing Justice Bernette Johnson from sitting on the panel who will determine how the matter will be settled. As you can guess, Johnson is both Black and the rightful successor.
Shameful. Kimball has stooped so far as to deposit the droppings of contention, confusion and controversy in a situation where a smooth transition could have taken place, further soiling an already tainted judicial system.
Now, we, the public will have to hold our noses and clean this mess up with letters, phone calls, visits, petitions to state officials in addition to boycotts, marches and other actions to let “Madame Chief Justice” and her ilk know that their antics will not be tolerated.
This is also a call to examine the racial track record of the Court over the past 50 years or more. Kimball is more than a stray cat leaving a single stain on the carpet of the court. If she is bold enough now to attack the state’s constitution this demands a review of the Supreme Court’s practices and decisions over a period of time. There may be a lot of damage waiting to be undone.
It seems that there is not a single shred of fairness or decency among the state’s conservative/racist population. They will leave no stone unturned in their drive to reverse any constitutional gains that Blacks have fought for over the past several decades.
They also seem determined to create racial conflict in situations where none would normally exist. Perhaps this is part of their strategy for galvanizing the white vote in November. Or perhaps it’s something more sinister.
The matter is made worse by conservative dishonesty and cowardice. Racists in high places simply do not want a Black woman as Chief Justice. They are no different from their robe-wearing, cross-burning, predecessors. They are never man or woman enough to just stand up and say “We don’t want her because she is Black.” This means they have to seek out or manufacture arguments to justify what they have already decided to do.
This is the exact opposite of integrity. It is also the opposite of what this state, this nation or this world needs in these already troubled times.
It really IS about race. No white justice would have to endure the insult that Justice Johnson is facing. She deserves better than this. It is a slap in the face of justice, fairness and every Black person in this state.
And this is one time we should not turn the other cheek.
This article originally published in the July 9, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.